After virtually inventing the mellow electronic movement that is chillwave, you’d think Toro y Moi would have at least been a proud parent for a few more years. But like a deadbeat dad, he dumps the sound (almost) entirely with his latest album What For? instead adopting a familiar new sound cemented by the almighty guitar. The results are a mixed bag.
If you’ve had a chance to listen to the album’s first single “Empty Nesters,” you’ll understand what I’m talking about. While the track is catchy and infectious, I literally had to second check my computer to make sure it wasn’t on shuffle because the track sounds identical to a sunny Tame Impala B-side. The echoey, processed vocals, vintage sounding guitar and general throwback vibe echo the aforementioned band and while it sounds almost nothing like Toro y Moi’s previous work, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a disappointing thing.
With the exception of the track “Buffalo,” there’s very little of Toro y Moi’s original DNA and while I understand the desire to branch out and try something new, it’s bummer to find the rest of the album so derivative of other bands.
Take the track “Ratcliff.” It’s pure Beatles and wastes no time pretending to be anything but, even ending on the line “rock and roll is here to stay.” The next track, “Lilly,” almost sounds like a Toro y Moi song at first with a familiar funky lead in and more keys but still breaks down into some goofy James Brown knock off that would have sounded out of place on any of their albums, let alone one with this much rock influence. Needless to say, the album is all over the place.
Is What For? a bad album? Not necessarily, it’s just an altogether weak one. Toro y Moi have set quite a bar for themselves over the past few years with their full lengths and while this ranks near the bottom, it’s still highly listenable and will most likely prove to be a blast live with the addition of guitars. But seriously guys, embrace what you’ve created and evolve with that instead of becoming a derivative of someone else. I don’t want to have to start calling you Lame Impala. No one wants that.